Lest you thought Mad Cow Disease was a thing of the past, the USDA confirmed yesterday that a California dairy cow tested positive for a rare form of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). But before you throw out your hamburger, rest assured that the cow did not enter the meat chain and thus is no risk to American beef eaters. Nor is it a threat to milk drinkers — the USDA states that BSE cannot be transmitted through milk.
The infected cow, which was born in Canada, had the fourth case of BSE in America (the last one was detected in 2006). BSE is a neurological disease that is potentially fatal for humans and always deadly for cattle. Mad Cow Disease gained notoriety in 1992 when an outbreak in the United Kingdom killed more than 150 people and over 30,000 cows. Since then, safeguards have reduced the risk of contracting BSE dramatically. According to the USDA, in 2011 there were only 29 cases worldwide.
The New York Times quoted USDA chief veterinary officer, John Clifford, saying, “There is really no cause for alarm here with regard to this animal.” But in case you’re still feeing a little queasy let us suggest these 100% BSE-free variations on the bean burger.